There was a time when students at Uyombo Girls Secondary were far from feeling associated with their school. Girls were even urging their parents to transfer them. Now, one year after the SHINE project started, they are proud of their school because things have changed.
It just took a school exchange visit to spark the fire. “We want our school to be like Bahari Girls Secondary”, said the members of the Uyombo integrity club after spending a day at the national boarding school which has everything they dream of: a laboratory, nice classrooms, spacious dormitories, and a school bus. At their small school in a rural area, nothing really developed since it was built in 2009, apart from the construction of an office and a dining hall.
Science classes in regular classrooms
Above all, a laboratory was missing,” stated Uyombo Girls’ integrity club member. During science classes, practical work needed to be done in regular classrooms. Smoky and burning chemicals were very disturbing. In a laboratory, the bad-smelling gases could escape through fuel channels. The students approached the principal who saw the necessitate and gave consent to build a laboratory. The first project at Uyombo Girls was born.
New laboratory: Students volunteer to minimize costs
In November 2019, construction started. The national government contributed to 6,000 KSH (60 USD) per student. This was far away from being enough. How could costs be minimized? The integrity club members decided to volunteer and fetch stones from a quarry on the school compound. Four days after they started the work, the principal ordered all other students to support them. “This building will be used by all of you!” Furthermore, students took stones from a burnt office building, raised money, and bought stones from a quarry in the neighborhood.
The big surprise waiting
The building was finished in June 2020, although the school is closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The students have not seen it yet”, says Dennis Ogero, a teacher at Uyombo and in his function as patron head of the integrity club. ”It will be a big and nice surprise for them when they return.” What is missing now is only to furnish the empty big room and to add the already stored equipment.
Another project which is under construction is a new and spacy dormitory. “This upgrade is supported by the local member of parliament”, explains Ogero. “It allows us to take soon 36 more students. The old dormitory is very small and thus congested. Students wanted to board but we did not have the facilities to accommodate them.”
Girls become proud of their school
It’s a new experience for the school as the number of students requesting the board has increased. “There was a time where students were so unsatisfied with the school and its infrastructure that they urged their parents to send them somewhere else”, says the watchman who is also the guardian of a student.
In his eyes, both projects, laboratory, and dormitory became triggers to improve things at Uyombo Secondary and thus to retain and attract students. “The girls now want to be associated with their school. They are proud of being here.”
Since the SHINE project was implemented, also the relationship between students, teachers, and school management changed. Ogero: “Before, orders were given from up to down, and students feared the teachers. Now we are in dialogue, and students speak out if they see any problem, inform us and we try to rectify. Students have become more confident. They are encouraged by what they see as possible and they can cause when they get the chance to participate.”
SHINE means “Students Acting for Honesty, Integrity, and Equality”. The project is established at 45 schools in Kilifi County, Kenya. The project aims at empowering students to act with and demand integrity in their school communities. Behind is the belief that integrity creates the conditions for people to resist corruption.
One component of the SHINE project is Integrity Clubs in which students are empowered to identify problems existing within their school communities, amicably come up with possible solutions, and mainstream intolerance to corruption. They monitor the development of projects through an app that is publicly accessible. In doing so, students practically learned the virtues of responsibility, accountability, transparency, hardworking, honesty, inclusivity.
Integrity Club members from our SHINE project girls schools interact and share experiences during an Exchange Visit at Bahari Girls’ or Sokoke Boys’. There, each school presented projects they are implementing, shared their challenges as others helped them find possible solutions and showcased their talents.